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Cats Pounce on Penguins Mistakes, Pens Lose 4-1

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Pittsburgh Penguins Kris Letang
Photo by Michael Miller

The Pittsburgh Penguins have scored just five goals in their last nine regulation periods. They managed a point in an overtime loss on Thursday against San Jose. They squeaked out an overtime win over Montreal on Saturday but their luck ran out as an inability to finish chances limited their offense and defensive mistakes spotted the Florida Panthers a few goals, and Florida began the second half of the Penguins season with a 4-1 win at PPG Paints Arena.

Florida deflated the Penguins and the suddenly rambunctious third period crowd when Mike Hoffman was unguarded in the right-wing circle. After a few minutes of Penguins momentum and pressure, Hoffman (14) whistled a top-shelf wrister for the third Florida goal.

That was effectively the end.

The Penguins had a short turnaround. They played in Montreal on Saturday at 7 p.m., the dropped the puck back in Pittsburgh at 5 p.m on Sunday. The trip also included a pass through customs which adds time and takes away rest.

“I don’t think we’ve had the juice that we have had in a number of games this year,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.

Officially, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was credited with one giveaway. But that’s a little shy of the real story. The Penguins top defenseman was out of sorts on Sunday. He was on the ice for the first two Florida goals against and directly involved in each.]

Just a couple of minutes into the game, Letang was beaten on the outside by Florida forward Frank Vatrano who then had a clear path to the Penguins net and goalie Tristan Jarry.

“It’s not going to be perfect out there, the type of minutes that “Tanger” logs. It’s not going to be a flawless game, but (simplifying his game) is a conversation that (Letang) and I have fairly frequently.”

Jarry made the first save, but Vatrano (9) chipped his own rebound into the net.

The Penguins rapid response team has been active. Last Friday, the Penguins quickly responded to each Nashville goal. Saturday night, the Penguins rapidly responded to the opening Montreal goal, and the Penguins did the same again on Sunday.

Just 84 seconds after Florida scored, the Penguins breakout slipped behind the Florida forecheck as Dominik Simon raced ahead with Jared McCann on a two-on-one. Simon fed McCann, who snapped his 11th goal of the season.

However, the Penguins were caught out of position later in the first period. Letang was guilty of a turnover behind the Penguins net. Whether Letang made a bad pass or the forwards Sam Lafferty Joseph Blandisi and Thomas Di Pauli were out of position is a debate. Florida pounded and Brett Connolly (16) roofed a shot over Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry from a few feet away.

Jarry allowed more than two goals for just the fifth time this season. He stopped 32 of 35 shots including a sparkler on Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad who was uncovered for a one-timer in the right-wing circle.

Florida goalie Chris Driedger also made a few pretty saves. He stopped 31 of 32.

Evgenii Dadonov netted the empty netter with over two minutes left to send the paying patrons home early on Sunday afternoon. 

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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